Praise has been heaped on the Environment Agency this week after it pulled out all the stops to save the biggest fishing match of the year from being a washout.
More than 700 competitors faced the prospect of a blank weekend after it looked likely that persistent heavy rain and flooding would lead to the cancellation of the prestigious Pentax Division 1 National, held on the River Huntspill, King’s Sedgemoor and South Drains in Bridgwater, Somerset.
Quick-thinking EA officials closed sluice gates upstream of the venues to hold back the flow and provide fishable conditions for a successful event that saw the top individual bank over 70lb of bream.
Huge volumes of surface water also saw competitors faced with potentially dangerous banks and access points, but the EA renovated pegs, erected safety ropes and even provided transport and emergency vehicles to help anglers get to and from their swims.
“On the Friday before the match I was a phone call away from calling it off. If it hadn’t been for the outstanding work of the Environment Agency, there would have been over 700 very disappointed anglers come Saturday morning,” said Terry Fell, president of the National Federation of Anglers, which organises and co-ordinates the Nationals.
“If the EA hadn’t held back the water you wouldn’t have been able to hold bottom with 6oz of lead. The Agency also laid straw and gravel in the boggy areas, made alternative car parks and helped anglers who got their vehicles stuck or struggled to get to their pegs.
“The EA gets a lot of negative press, but everyone involved in this match is very grateful to it. Fishing is lucky to have people like this.”
And it isn’t only match anglers who benefited from the EA’s hard work at the three West Country venues. In the build-up to the event, around 300 new pegs were created, along with new access points and car parking, with huge areas that were previously inaccessible and overgrown being cleared, allowing pleasure anglers to unlock their potential.
“One of our main objectives is to improve fishing for all, and give anglers better, improved venues to fish,” said David Lloyd, technical officer for fisheries, recreation and biodiversity for the EA in Bridgewater.
“Local anglers are already very excited about the new pegs and there are lots of carpers that have been contacting me for information about the areas we have opened up. Who knows what they might hold!” he added.